HARPENDEN, June 23, 2016 (Xinhua) -- People arrive at a polling station in Harpenden, Britain, on June 23, 2016. Millions of Britons will vote to stay in or leave the European Union (EU) on Thursday as polling stations across the country opened to the public in the morning. (Xinhua/Richard Washbrooke)
LONDON, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Millions of Britons will vote to stay in or leave the European Union (EU) on Thursday as polling stations across the country opened to the public in the morning.
The referendum started at 7 a.m. and will end at 10 p.m. Voting will be held at schools, libraries, churches and community centers.
The ballot counting will start as soon as the polls close. A total of 382 counting areas will be set up, with 380 located in England, Wales and Scotland, and one in Northern Ireland and one in Gibraltar.
The outcome is expected to be officially declared at the Manchester Town Hall in the early hours of Friday.
Statistics from the Electoral Commission on Tuesday showed that about 46 million people are eligible to the EU referendum, a record number for a nationwide poll in Britain.
According to six main opinion polls from June 18 to 22, the "Leave" camp was tied with the "Remain" camp.
Politicians from the two sides made their final pitches on the eve of the historic poll.
British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered his final public speech on Wednesday in Birmingham, reaffirming that "we are stronger, we are better off, we are safer in a reformed European Union."
In an emotional speech he said, "our economy will be weaker if you leave and stronger if we stay. What that means is that on that ballot paper is British jobs, British families, the finance, the people in our country, the strength of our country. And that is why we will vote remain tomorrow."
Nearly 1,300 business leaders, including 51 of the FTSE 100, also signed a letter to The Times on Wednesday, backing Britain's membership in the EU. The letter said Brexit would damage the British economy and mean uncertainty for British firms, trade with Europe and jobs.
On the Leave side, in his final push on Wednesday, former London mayor Boris Johnson flew from London to northern England and made seven stops to encourage voters to vote leave and create an "Independent Day" on Thursday.
The Remain side has constantly warned about risks to the British economy and the threat to hundreds of thousands of jobs should a Brexit become reality.
Brexit embracers say the 50 million pounds a day Britain pays to Europe can instead be used to boost the British economy and support the cash strapped National Health Service. They also say the referendum is Britain' s last chance to control its borders in the wake of massive immigration from poorer EU member states.
LONDON, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Up to 46 million Britons will make their most important decision in decades in Thursday's referendum on the nation's membership in the EU, according to political experts.
Their votes will decide the nation's future, either as one of the 28 member states of the European Union, or as a self-governing island country. Full story